In his first public comments since being sentenced to being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified material to the website WikiLeaks while serving in the U.S. Army, Bradley Manning has stated that public portrayals of him as a pacifist and conscientious objector are not true.
In a two-page letter to the Guardian newspaper, which published some of the more than 700,000 battlefield reports and diplomatic cables relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Manning said "It's not terribly clear to me that my actions were explicitly done for 'peace.' I don't consider myself a 'pacifist,' 'anti-war,' or (especially) a 'conscientious objector.'" Manning goes on to say, "I accept that there may be 'peaceful' or 'anti-war' implications to my actions -- but this is purely based on your subjective interpretation of the primary source documents." (Emphasis original)
"I believe," the statement from Manning continues, "that it is also perfectly reasonable to subjectively interpret these documents and come to the opposite opinion and say 'hey, look at these documents, they clearly justify this war' (or diplomatic discussion, or detention of an individual)."
The statement, dated Monday, was sent from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Manning is being held. He was found guilty in August of 20 charges, including six violations of the espionage act. However, Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge, that of aiding the enemy.
The day after his sentencing, Manning announced that he wished to live as a woman. Though the statement's letterhead gives his name as Bradley E. Manning, the statement is signed with Manning's preferred female name, Chelsea.
Manning says his statement was prompted by his being granted the Sean MacBride Peace Award last month by the International Peace Bureau. Manning said that he was "flattered and honored" to receive the award, but also said he was "shocked and frustrated" by the implications for his public persona.
"I am a 'transparency advocate,'" Manning writes. "I feel that the public cannot decide what actions and policies are or are not justified if they don't even know the most rudimentary details about them and their effects. (emphasis original)."